Alternative fuels can make for a cleaner future on the roads, but we can do even better

The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation can make future cleaner road transport in the EU a reality, but there is still room for improvement, writes Ismail Ertug
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By Ismail Ertug

Ismail Ertug (DE, S&D) is a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), where he is rapporteur for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.

03 Mar 2022

Transport and mobility lie at the heart of society and are an essential part of everyday day life which shapes the wellbeing of European citizens. Simply put, transport and mobility concern all of us. However, their future must be aligned with the transition to ensure the successful decarbonisation of the transport sector; sustainable alternative fuels and their infrastructure will play a key role in this. 

For this reason, I strongly support the European Commission’s proposal for the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation. Legally binding minimum requirements to deploy this infrastructure will give the EU the best possible capacity for supporting the required uptake of alternative fuel vehicles, in all Member States and across all transport modes. Harmonised provisions will ensure the required accessibility to recharging and refuelling stations, facilitating the mobility of citizens in their day-to-day lives. It will also strengthen territorial cohesion and help all regions in their transition towards a greener, climate-neutral future. 

“In many respects, the Commission’s proposal is a good starting point, but I believe that there is room for further improvement”

Furthermore, transparent and fair pricing, combined with uniform and easy-to-use payment solutions for users, are needed to ensure full accessibility for all citizens and to make it easier to switch to sustainable transport solutions. In many respects, the Commission’s proposal is a good starting point, but I believe that there is room for further improvement. Therefore, I propose strengthening the policy framework in a number of ways. 

On light-duty vehicles, a category which includes cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, and minivans, distance-based targets for charging stations must apply by 2025 along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), which outlines the EU’s transportation routes. In order to fully support the increasing number of electric vehicles on the market, it is also important to increase the targets set on the number of charging stations available relative to the total number cars registered in a Member State.

An important aspect of this is providing a higher minimum power output per vehicle. This will be particularly important in the shorter term, to ensure a basic coverage that enables users to charge wherever they are driving. Therefore, the power output requirement per vehicle should be linked to the proportion of electric vehicles in the fleet, with higher output requirements from the outset. This would decrease over the years, as the number of electric vehicles will increase. 

On heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses, I believe that the proposed targets must be significantly strengthened. This will mean a significant increase in the minimum power of output chargers in order to enable drivers to charge during rest periods. In addition, we need an increased capacity of charging stations sited in safe and secure parking areas. Likewise, the proposed rollout of recharging stations along the TEN-T network must be executed more coherently than the approach set out in the Commission’s proposal if it is to support the market penetration of battery electric or fuel cell trucks.

With regards to liquefied natural gas (LNG) in road transport, I do not believe that this fuel has any significant role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. Consequently, the EU should not encourage any further development of this infrastructure, which would risk stranded assets and detrimental lock-in to fossil technologies at the expense of sustainable alternatives with a higher potential to reduce emissions. Thus, LNG refuelling infrastructure for high-duty vehicles should not be part of this legislation.

“Harmonised provisions will ensure the required accessibility to recharging and refuelling stations, facilitating the mobility of citizens in their day-to-day lives”

The recharging of vehicles must be easy, efficient and accessible for all in society. Therefore, all publicly accessible charging and refuelling stations need to be fully accessible to persons of reduced mobility. Furthermore, operators of charging stations should be obliged to display the ad hoc price in ‘price per kWh’ before the start of a recharging session, and to ensure that electronic card payment is always possible. To enable better management of the electricity grid and ultimately trigger lower electricity prices for consumers, all charging points should be capable of smart charging, which is more efficient.

I am convinced that it is important to improve the transparency and quality of the data that operators of recharging and refuelling stations will gather. Therefore, the Commission should establish a European Access Point by connecting all National Access Points. The goal here will be to set up an EU application or interface that enables users to access an exhaustive EU-wide map and route planner containing all publicly accessible recharging and refuelling stations. 

Clean hydrogen will be essential to reaching both the EU objectives under the European Green Deal and climate neutrality by 2050. A rapid technological development is taking place, and Europe must harness the full potential of the hydrogen refuelling ecosystem for heavy-duty road transport, which will require both gaseous and liquid hydrogen. Therefore, I propose to further increase the deployment of distance-based refuelling stations for high-duty vehicles along the TEN-T network. 

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